Urban Rewilding
Steps to Implement Urban Rewilding Projects

Hari Srinivas
Concept Note Series C-033

Urban rewilding plays an important role in promoting public health by providing opportunities for physical activity and connecting people to nature.
Before we look at the steps to be taken to rewild urban parks and green areas, it is important to understand the relative benefits of such rewiling processes. By integrating urban rewilding principles and projects into urban governance processes, cities can foster more sustainable, livable, and resilient environments that address the needs and aspirations of their residents while promoting ecological health and well-being.

Urban rewilding promotes ecological sustainability by integrating nature into urban environments. This aligns with the goals of urban governance processes focused on sustainability, as it improves the city's resilience, reduces the environmental footprint, and contributes to achieving targets related to climate change, biodiversity conservation, and resource management.

Rewilded urban spaces provide numerous benefits to residents, including increased access to green areas, improved air quality, reduced noise pollution, and enhanced aesthetics. These improvements in livability can enhance citizen satisfaction and well-being, which are important considerations for urban governance.

Urban rewilding initiatives often involve active participation and collaboration between local communities, government agencies, and stakeholders. These projects provide opportunities for community engagement, empowerment, and co-creation, fostering a sense of ownership and pride among residents. This involvement strengthens the social fabric, builds trust, and improves the effectiveness of urban governance processes by incorporating diverse perspectives and local knowledge.

When rewilding urban areas, there are three crucial aspects to keep in mind:

  1. Ecological Suitability: It is essential to consider the ecological suitability of the area for rewilding. Assessing factors such as soil quality, water availability, sunlight exposure, and existing biodiversity will help determine the feasibility of introducing native plants and animals. Understanding the local ecology will guide the selection of species that can thrive and contribute to the restoration of ecosystems.

  2. Community Engagement: Engaging the local community is vital for the success of urban rewilding projects. Involving residents, businesses, schools, and community organizations fosters a sense of ownership, raises awareness about the benefits of rewilding, and ensures long-term support and participation. Encourage community involvement through public consultations, workshops, volunteer programs, and educational initiatives to create a shared vision and cultivate a sense of stewardship for the rewilded areas.

  3. Long-Term Management and Maintenance: Sustaining rewilded urban areas requires long-term management and maintenance. Develop a comprehensive management plan that includes regular monitoring, maintenance of vegetation, and habitat restoration. Establish partnerships with local environmental organizations, city agencies, and community groups to share responsibilities and resources. Adequate funding, staffing, and training should be allocated to ensure the continued success and viability of the rewilding efforts.
By considering ecological suitability, engaging the community, and implementing effective long-term management strategies, urban rewilding projects can thrive, restore ecosystems, and create sustainable and biodiverse urban environments.

Access to nature and green spaces has been shown to have positive impacts on physical and mental health. Urban rewilding, by creating and enhancing green areas, promotes active lifestyles, reduces stress levels, and provides opportunities for recreational activities and social interaction. Incorporating health and well-being considerations into urban governance processes contributes to the overall welfare of the population.

Urban rewilding can have economic advantages by attracting tourists, promoting local businesses, and creating job opportunities. Restored ecosystems and green infrastructure can contribute to increased property values and support the development of nature-based tourism, which can boost local economies and generate revenue.

Rewilded urban spaces can contribute to climate change adaptation and mitigation strategies. Vegetation helps mitigate the urban heat island effect, reduces energy consumption for cooling, and sequesters carbon dioxide. Nature-based solutions, such as green roofs and rain gardens, contribute to stormwater management and reduce the risk of flooding. These climate-related benefits align with the priorities of urban governance processes focused on resilience, environmental sustainability, and climate action.

So what steps can be taken to rewild urban areas to enhance environmental quality?
  1. Identify areas that can be rewilded:
    Identify areas in the city that are suitable for rewilding, such as abandoned lots, rooftops, and green spaces.
  2. Select native species:
    Choose native species of plants and animals that can thrive in urban environments, and that are well adapted to the local climate and soil conditions. These species are more likely to attract local wildlife and help create a healthy urban ecosystem.
  3. Create green infrastructure:
    Create green infrastructure such as green roofs, green walls, and green spaces that can be planted with native vegetation. This will provide habitats for wildlife and help reduce the urban heat island effect.
  4. Build wildlife corridors:
    Build wildlife corridors that connect different green spaces in the city. This will provide habitats for species to move through the city, and allow them to migrate from one area to another.
  5. Remove invasive species:
    Remove invasive species that can harm the ecosystem, and replace them with native species that can support biodiversity.
  6. Educate the community:
    Educate the community about the benefits of urban rewilding, and involve them in the process. Encourage residents to plant native species in their yards and balconies, and to support the creation of new green spaces in the city.
  7. Monitor and evaluate:
    Monitor the progress of the urban rewilding efforts, and evaluate the impact on the environment and the community. This will help identify areas that need improvement, and ensure that the project is successful in enhancing environmental quality in the city.
Two examples that have used the above steps to rewild:
Mumbai, India:
In Mumbai, the mangrove forests along the city's coastline are being restored and protected, in order to provide habitat for wildlife and help mitigate the impacts of sea level rise and storm surges. The city is also working to green its urban spaces, with initiatives like the creation of rooftop gardens and parks.
Seoul, South Korea:
Seoul has a number of initiatives aimed at restoring and protecting green spaces within the city, including the creation of parks and green roofs. The city has also implemented a "Green Seoul" plan, which aims to increase the city's green space and improve its overall sustainability. Additionally, the city is working to restore and protect its streams and rivers, which have been covered and altered due to urbanization. These initiatives are helping to improve the quality of life for Seoul's residents and protect the city's natural resources.

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